It was a very tough finish to the 2015-16 season for the Boston Bruins, and it might be even harder to come up with more of a painful end to a regular season. After losing the final game of the season at home 6-1 to the lottery-bound Ottawa Senators and missing the playoffs by one point, the Bruins players, coaches and front office staff will be replaying many games, and thinking what could have been. How do the Bruins move forward?
How do the Bruins Move Forward?
Claude Julien said he felt Bruins should have been in the playoffs & used the word "failure" on a number of occasions talking about this yr
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) April 14, 2016
What We Know
We know the Bruins will be bringing back head coach Claude Julien, which is a smart move. If Julien was let go, many NHL teams would be courting him this off-season, most notably the Senators. The Bruins offense and special teams were not the issue this year. Boston finished fifth in goals per game, seventh on the power play and eleventh on the penalty kill.
However, what killed Boston was that they finished 20th in the league in goals allowed per game. What is alarming about that stat is Boston had strong goaltending this season, as Rask had a .915 save percentage in 64 games, while backup Jonas Gustavsson registered a .908 SV%. That screams that the Bruins team defense is extremely lacking.
No rest for the defense: Bruins blue line requires summer upgrades. https://t.co/pr1GqXFQNt
— Fluto Shinzawa (@GlobeFluto) April 12, 2016
Blue Line Help Needed
Do the Bruins have a top defensemen? Zdeno Chara is now 39 years of age, and while he is still solid, he is no longer a franchise blue liner. Dennis Seidenberg’s best part of his career is behind him, while Torey Krug was a bright spot with his 40 assists along with his +9 rating. Kevan Miller had a good season as well but the 28-year old should do very well on the free agent market and he may not be back.
General manager Don Sweeney’s off-season mandate is to bring in a sure fire blue liner to lead this squad and have the others fall in line. That is easier said than done. Trying to land a top defenseman in a trade is very difficult, just ask the Edmonton Oilers. If Boston decides to look towards free agency, that will be extremely expensive both in annual salary and years. Also, there is not an ideal fit in free agency for the Bruins in terms of the kind of defenseman they need. Sweeney is going to have to get very creative to solve this problem this off-season.
Big Decisions on Eriksson & Marchand
Mr. Sweeney has two very large decisions to make regarding his top players. Loui Eriksson is an unrestricted free agent come July 1st and Brad Marchand is a UFA after next season. Eriksson, who until this season was a big disappointment for Boston, was the principle player the Bruins received in the Tyler Seguin trade in 2013. Everything finally came together for the Swede as he recorded 63 points. The soon to be 31-year-old should score a very lucrative contract this summer. But will it be Sweeney and the Boston Bruins offering him that contract?
Marchand is coming off a career year with 37 goals and 61 points. Considering the Canadian goal scorer will be in the prime of his career after next season, are the Bruins willing to break the bank for a possibly big contract? If not, would they consider moving Marchand this off-season, or do they keep him with the team as long as they can?
As the Bruins move forward, there are a lot of big decisions to make this off-season, as well as work to do to get this Original Six team back to contender status.